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Covid-19: so much worse than the flu

Around the world countries are locking down their borders and are asking citizens to stay at home. Yet many of us still have not grasped the seriousness of the situation.

Again and again I read in comments and articles online that Covid-19 is no worse than the flu, and that governments are overreacting.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Covid-19: so much worse than the flu

If you are forced to work from home or you have been asked to stay indoors, you shouldn’t be misled by these claims. Or think that you are stuck at home for no reason whatsoever.

The biggest difference to the flu: No one is immune. Unchecked the Covid-19 virus runs rampant and can infect up to 70 percent of the population of any country in a very short time.

It doesn’t matter if it is more or less infectious than the flu, or if it has a higher death rate or not. What counts is that no one is immune. And that if unchecked and without proper treatment the virus will kill up to 3 of 100 infected people. Hitting hardest among those over 65 years old.

Clearly whoever claims that Covid-19 is just another flu hasn’t bothered to look at the numbers.

Let’s look at Germany, with a population of around 83 million people. Without government intervention, the virus would race through the population and infect up to 70 percent of Germany’s residents in just a few months. That’s 58 million infected people.

Depending on the statistics you look at,

  • 5 percent need hospital treatment to survive Covid-19: that’s 2.9 million people.
  • 2 percent need intensive care. That’s nearly 1.2 million people.
  • 1 percent need artificial respiration to survive. That’s 600,000 people.

No health system in the world, not even in Germany, can provide that many hospital beds in such a short time. There are nowhere near enough hospital beds, intensive care units or respirators.

Social isolation helps slow down the spread of the virus. It does not stop 70% of people from getting infected. But it gives hospitals the ability to cope with the immense influx of patients over a longer time period. And it hopefully allows scientists to develop treatments and a vaccine.

So far, the mortality rate in Germany has been very low, because the government reacted quickly, and the health system is of a high quality. Other countries have not been so lucky.

But if 3% of infected people really died because of the inaction of governments, then Covid-19 would kill more than 1.7 million people in Germany alone. Or 230 million people worldwide.

Even at half the fatality rate the suffering would still be enormous.

And that’s not counting people without the virus who would die, because they could not be treated in overcrowded hospitals. These are clearly worst-case numbers. But these are the numbers governments are fighting against, and why we must deal with lockdowns and closed borders. Keep them in mind next time you are annoyed about being stuck at home. Or when someone compares Covid-19 to just another flu.

Instead feel good about doing your part in helping to save lives.

- Steffan Klein

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